Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Determine Our Lives

Here is a thought from Carol Dweck’s remarkably insightful book – Mindset: The New Psychology of Success — an inquiry into the power of our beliefs, and how changing our most simplistic beliefs can have a profound impact on our lives. In Dweck’s research, she found how we view our personality and how we live it out, at a very young age, determines our attitude to almost everything in life. And that we fall, depending on our beliefs, in one of two camps:

  • Fixed Mindset

Those with a “Fixed Mindset” believe that our character, intelligence and creative ability are traits we are born with and no matter what we do; they cannot be changed in any meaningful way – so we either have it or we do not. 

The ramifications of this are immense: thinking that our intelligence cannot be improved, we are always trying not to look dumb. It leads to focusing on easy stuff and avoiding the challenges that stretch our comfort zone. We become the ultimate big fish in the small pond.

The “Fixed mindset” people are always seeking approval and for people to affirm their opinions and ways. They crave being special and so find shortcuts to be seen as smart, rather than putting in the effort to do so; and as soon as failure arrives as it surely must, they are devastated and find it hard to recover from the setback of losing a job, a promotion or getting unexpected low examination scores.

A kid, who is smart in grade 3 and knows it, as everyone including his parents keeps telling him so, will start resting on their laurels and slowly close their minds to new learning; and even worse, they would equate their effort with something that smart kids do not do and so doing extra work is an act that is beneath their original selves. “Their only goal is to look good.”

  • Growth Mindset

Those with a “Growth mindset,” believe that, with effort, they can change their character, intelligence and enhance their creativity. They thrive on challenge and see failure not as being unintelligent but rather a stepping stone that is needed to grow and change.

They are open-minded, humble and are always willing to work on the beliefs that are holding them back to be able to learn and grow. They develop a passion for learning that serves them for the rest of their lives.